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Five Takeaways - Leafs at Stars - 01/31/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 6-3 loss to the Dallas Stars Tuesday at American Airlines Center:

by Adam Proteau /

1. Stars score early, often in messy first period for Leafs. In their first game after the NHL all-star break, the Leafs were not the attentive-to-detail-on-defence group they've been for much of this season. Indeed, in allowing the Stars to score twice in the first 4:37 (on goals from Devin Shore and Radek Faksa) of the opening period and three times in the first 11:18 (on a Lauri Korpikoski marker) to establish a big lead early on. 

Toronto actually outshot Dallas 14-12 in the first 20 minutes, but the Buds surrendered a slew of prime scoring opportunities, and the Stars' talented group of offence-minded players took advantage of just about every one of them.


Video: TOR@DAL: Bozak redirects puck home for PPG

2. Bozak puts Toronto on scoreboard, but Dallas adds a pair to end first with four-goal advantage. Centre Tyler Bozak has had a couple of point-producing droughts this year, but the veteran has shown a knack for breaking out of them with a bang, and after not posting any points in his past three contests, he got the Leafs on the scoresheet Tuesday by registering his 13th goal of the year at 13:46 of the first.

The goal - a power-play marker - made it 3-1 in favour of the Stars, but it didn't do much in the way of build momentum for Toronto. Despite head coach Mike Babcock switching goalies - going from Frederik Andersen to Curtis McElhinney after Dallas' third goal of the night - the home team continued pressuring the Leafs and posted two more goals before the first intermission (from Brett Ritchie and Jamie Benn) to make it 5-1. As first periods go, this was one of the worst of the year for the Buds, who needed to tighten up in a number of departments if they were to have any chance at rebounding and making a game of it in the final two periods.


Video: TOR@DAL: Soshinkov finishes to capitalize on turnover

3. Soshnikov starts second with a goal, but Stars get it back in short order. Winger Nikita Soshnikov brought Toronto within three goals when he scored his third of the season at the 4:19 mark. But three-and-a-half minutes after that, centre Jason Spezza knocked his eighth of the year past McElhinney to make it 6-2, and once again, the Leafs found themselves trailing by four.

The Buds did come close to making it a closer game a number of times, but Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen turned aside 14 of 16 shots he saw in the second period - while the Stars only managed six shots on Toronto's net in the frame - and the experienced netminder had a fair bit of breathing room thanks to the output of his teammates on offence.


Video: TOR@DAL: Marner stickhandles, wires in quick wrister

4. Marner registers multi-point game to vault to the top of Leafs' point-producers' list. Rookie winger Mitch Marner has more than met expectations this year, and the 19-year-old once again made an impact on the scoreboard Tuesday, logging an assist (his 29th of the season) on Bozak's goal, then netting his 12th goal of the year at 10:25 of the second to cut the Stars' lead to 6-3 heading into the final regulation frame.

Marner's two-point performance gave him 41 points this season, pushing him past teammates Auston Matthews and James van Riemsdyk to move into sole possession of top spot among Toronto's point-producers. Marner's all-around game is important to Babcock and Leafs management, but his skills creating and finishing with the puck are what have turned heads for most Buds fans. He shows no sign of slowing down, and that should excite Toronto fans and unnerve Leafs opponents.  

5. Toronto's advantage over Stars in shot department extends through third, but Dallas holds firm to claim victory. The large discrepancy in shots between the two teams was more pronounced than ever in the third period, as the Leafs outshot Dallas 12-0 through the first 17:30 of the frame. And though Toronto thought it had its fourth goal of the night when Soshnikov pushed the puck in for what would've been his second of the game, the officials ruled he kicked it in and disallowed the marker.

Ultimately, the Stars managed just one shot on net in the third, while the Leafs fired 13 more on Lehtonen to finish with 43 shots. But Dallas' initial scoring burst of three goals in their first eight shots of the game proved to be the difference, and now the Leafs will focus on ending a two-game losing skid in St. Louis Thursday night.

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